Gut Health and PMS
Let’s face it, everyone is different. You don’t expect everyone to have the same experience as you, but do you really know what is considered within the boundaries of ‘normal’?
No-one really speaks about it. Or gives a clear indication of what isn’t normal. So how would you know?
Let’s take a quick look at what constitutes a ‘normal’ menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle is designed to prepare a woman’s body for pregnancy. The cycle should last 26-32 days. Usually, once a month, the uterus grows a new, thickened lining which can hold a fertilised egg. If there is no fertilised egg to start a pregnancy, the uterus sheds its lining.
The menstrual cycle has three distinct phases. The follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase.
- The Follicular phase begins on day one of menstruation (bleeding) and lasts about 10-14 days.
- Then Ovulation (the monthly release of a mature egg from an ovary) and last about 12-48 hours.
- Next, the Luteal phase is the second half of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation.
Estrogen and progesterone levels vary during the different phases.
Symptoms of a Healthy & Unhealthy Menstrual Cycle
You may feel some heaviness or slight sensation in your lower abdomen. Others may experience a few episodes of diarrhoea over a few days. But cramping that requires hot water bottles or medications should not be considered normal.
The colour should be bright red to cranberry colour. Clotting is normal, but nonetheless should not be burdensome. Heavy clotting can be constituted as anything larger than a teaspoon. If this occurs consistently, or you need to change your pad or tampon hourly, you should seek medical advice from a health care professional. The bleeding should last anywhere from 4-7 days.
It is reported that 75% of females experience the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). These include:
In 20% of those women, the symptoms are so severe, they will seek medical treatment (Hyman, 2016).
The fact is – PMS is not just bad luck or a design flaw in women. Nor is it something you just have to put up with. The real cause for PMS is:
Your hormones become unbalanced, your estrogen levels increase, and progesterone levels decrease.
Some factors which promote these hormone imbalances:
- High sugar, refined carbohydrate diet
- Estrogen-like toxins from pesticides and pollution
- Obesity – increases excess estrogen production
So How Do I Get My Hormones Back in Balance?
- Stop eating refined flour, sugar and highly processed foods – Gut Performance™ is safe, minimally processed, non-GMO and has no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or chemicals.
- Eliminate or significantly reduce your caffeine.
- Reduce your alcohol intake.
- Increase fermented foods to support your gut health.
- Balance your blood sugar levels by eating protein at meals. Gut Performance™ is proven in moderating your blood sugar level with its unique combination of nutrients including chromium and whole cell fibre from the sugarcane stem.
- Eat organic food, especially animal products, to avoid environmental estrogens from pesticides.
- Establish a regular eating pattern and don’t skip meals.
- Consider eliminating common allergens from your diet for a few months with the help of a nutritional specialist.
- Increase omega-3 fats by eating more wild fish like sardines and salmon.
- Get moving – exercise is essential in balancing hormones. Warning, don’t overtrain. That has the potential to cause hypothalamic amenorrhea (loss of your period).
- Address your stress – it is heavily implicated in hormonal imbalance by altering the natural balance of healthy bacteria in your gut.
- Increase the prebiotics in your diet – take Gut Performance ™ daily. This is especially helpful in correcting constipation and giving your ‘good bacteria’ the food to flourish so it can help excrete the excess estrogen.
PMS is the result of a hormone imbalance. You are not defective, and it’s not a curse you have to endure until you reach menopause. Lifestyle and diet modifications can help you take control of your period; so you can feel more energised, balanced and in control.
Let us know via our Gut Performance™ Instagram page if you have tried Gut Performance™ and how it has improved your gut health and hormonal symptoms including PMS. We would love to hear from you.
Bibliography & Works Cited
HealthDirect. (ND). Premenstrual Syndrome. Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/premenstrual-syndrome-pms
Hyman, M. (2016). How to eliminate PMS in 5 Simple Steps. Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://drhyman.com/blog/2010/09/17/how-to-eliminate-pms-in-5-simple-steps/
Kravitz, L., Cazares, A., & Mermier, C. (2013). Women, Hormones, Metabolism and Energy Expenditure. Fitness Journal, 10(7). Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/women-hormones-metabolism-amp-energy-expenditure
O’Dell, N. (2014). The Female Athlete: Understanding your cycle and Performance. Retrieved February 2, 2019, from https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/understanding-your-cycle-and-performance/
Watson, S. (2018). Stages of the Menstrual Cycle. Retrieved February 1, 2019, from https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/stages-of-menstrual-cycle#menstrual
Gut Health and Balancing Estrogen for Optimal Performance
How Gut Performance™ can support your hormones
Estrogen’s Role in the Body
You probably know estrogen as the hormone that regulates menstruation. But it has a hand in hundreds of processes in the human body:
- Assists in reducing muscle damage
- Helps control inflammation
- Breaks fat down into fuel
- Regulates body fat deposition
- Involved in cardiovascular health
- Bone turnover – so you grow strong bones.
- Cell replication
- Achieving and maintaining fat loss.
All these functions are needed to maintain and extend your athletic performance and overall health.
But it takes a healthy balance of the hormone. An imbalance will most certainly impact your ability to build and retain lean and metabolically active muscle tissue.
So, what is the link between estrogen and gut health?
The Microbiome and Estrogen
Scientific research has established that gut microbiota regulates many aspects of human physiology, including the absorption of nutrients, our immunity and intestinal permeability. It also plays a critical role in regulating circulating estrogen levels (Baker, Al-Nakkash, & Herbst-Kralovetz, 2017).
The subgroup of the microbiome involved with estrogen metabolism is called the estrobolome. It reduces the harmful side effects of more potent estrogen by metabolising excess estrogen.
DISCLAIMER: The following is a simplified version of an extremely complex process. There is a reference at the end of this article if you would like more in-depth information on the process of estrogen metabolism.
The Healthy Cycle of Estrogen
- Estrogen is made primarily by your ovaries (but also in the adrenal glands and adipose tissue to a lesser extent)
- It then circulates through your body via blood, to tissues in the breast, uterus, brain and elsewhere.
- Eventually, the estrogens circulate to the liver, where they are broken down and deactivated.
- Inactivated estrogen is then sent to the intestine via bile, and exits the body with the stool (small amounts are also excreted in the urine).
When the gut microbiome is healthy, the estrobolome (which metabolises the estrogen) produces just the right amount of beta-glucuronidase to maintain estrogen homeostasis. You get all the benefits of a healthy gut and a healthy balance of hormones.
Unhealthy Estrogen Cycle
But if there is gut dysbiosis(imbalance), something very different happens. With a proliferation of unfriendly bacteria, beta-glucuronidase activity is altered. It reactivates estrogen in your gut and then sends it through the body again. This causes an excess of estrogen.
If this occurs, you are more likely to develop conditions such as obesity, fibroids and cysts, type 2 diabetes, endometriosis, PCOS, PMS, heavy bleeding, infertility, a zapped sex drive, and weight gain. If that isn’t enough, it increases your risk of certain types of breast and uterine cancers. Not very appealing.
While we don’t want an excess, it’s also damaging to our bodies if we have a deficiency. When females have an extremely low microbial diversity or low levels of the good bacteria in the gut, the decrease in beta-glucuronidase causes a reduction in circulating free estrogens.
If you have abnormally low levels of estrogen, symptoms include poor memory, sleep problems, hot flashes, mood swings, osteoporosis and even amenorrhea (the absence of your monthly period).
Both these conditions can be caused by a disruption in your gut health. Problems in the gut-hormone relationship usually start with the gut, but once the delicate balance is thrown off, it’s hard to know where to pin the blame (Wieselman, 2018).
What Factors Disrupt the Microbiome?
Diet and lifestyle factors which are commonly acknowledged as disruptors to the gut microbiome also have the potential to disturb the estrobolome. Below are some examples:
- Antibiotics – it can be a single dose in some cases or chronic use
- Toxins – pesticides, herbicides, glyphosate from GMO products, environmental chemicals, infections and even stress can negatively shift the microbiome.
- Hormonal contraceptives – the contraceptive pill is known to promote candida overgrowth.
- Diet – a diet low in fermentable foods and resistant starches will lead to decreased bacterial diversity. Dairy, sugar and gluten are significant culprits in promoting bacterial imbalances. Restrictive diets, significantly low-calorie diets, are also known to cause disruption.
The Best Ways to Optimise your Estrogen Levels for Athletic Performance
Remember, optimise doesn’t equate to ‘increase’ or ‘decrease’ the level. Instead, it is the process of getting the estrogen level in the sweet spot, so the benefits are maximised, and negatives minimised (Kravitz, Cazares, & Mermier, 2013)
The best way to support a healthy microbiome to improve your hormones, is through a diverse whole food diet, optimising digestion, and taking steps to lower inflammation.
It’s not difficult but does require consistency on your part.
- Consume Cruciferous Vegetables – such as broccoli and cabbage. They possess a unique phytonutrient known as 3,3’-Diindolylmethane (DIM for short) that helps metabolise estrogens into less potent forms.
- Eat more vegetables – fibre promotes a healthy microbiome.
- A diverse range of nutrients – Gut Performance™ combines very nutrient dense whole foods in clever ways, so it can be absorbed and utilised by the body.
- Reduce alcohol consumption – consistent alcohol consumption alters the microbiome. It leads to higher activity of beta-glucuronidase causing more significant levels of active estrogen metabolites.
- Take a probiotic – there has been evidence supporting the supplementation of Lactobacillus acidophilus decreasing the activity of beta-glucuronidase.
- Eat fermented foods – sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi etc.
- Utilise prebiotics – Gut Performance™ combines highly nutritious foods your gut microbiota needs for good health and better athletic performance. A healthy gut microbiome results in balanced estrogen levels.
Your microbiota needs the right bacteria, in the right amount to perform its hormone regulating functions properly. When the type or number of bacteria gets disturbed by events such as stress, or poor diet, your gut can no longer accomplish its job.
Reversing dysbiosis by looking after gut heath appears to be the key for keeping the estrobolome healthy – helping the body function smoothly and allowing you to reach your peak athletic performance.
Bibliography & Works Cited
Baker, J. M., Al-Nakkash, L., & Herbst-Kralovetz, M. M. (2017). Estrogen-gut microbiome axis: Physiological and clinical implications. Maturitas, 103, 45-53. Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/s0378512217306503
Kravitz, L., Cazares, A., & Mermier, C. (2013). Women, Hormones, Metabolism and Energy Expenditure. Fitness Journal, 10(7). Retrieved January 23 2019, from https://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/women-hormones-metabolism-amp-energy-expenditure
If you are interested in understanding estrogen metabolism in the gut, please refer to this article. It has two excellent diagrams that explain the complicated process.
Kwa, M., Plottel, C., Blaser, M., & Sylvia, A. (2016). The Intestinal Microbiome and Estrogen Receptor–Positive Female Breast Cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 108(8). Retrieved January 24, 2019, from https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/108/8/djw029/2457487
Wieselman, B. (2018). Why your gut health and microbiome make-or-break your hormone balance. Retrieved January 24, 2019, from https://briewieselman.com/why-your-gut-health-and-microbiome-make-or-break-your-hormone-balance/
My Period Has Stopped!
Is it Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea?
What is Happening?
Before we start talking about how to fix it when you have lost your period, let’s start defining the medical terminology so you can get your head around it. So you can fully understand what is happening. This is essential to take back control of your health.
‘Amenorrhea’ means the absence of menstruation, more commonly known as your period. Your period occurs when an egg is released, (during ovulation) but not fertilised. The thick lining built up in your uterus, in case of pregnancy, is then shed. This is the blood loss you see.
Amenorrhea is classified as either primary or secondary.
- Primary is when a female has not menstruated by the age of 15 and has otherwise shown signs of puberty. This is usually due to genetic or anatomic abnormalities. And isn’t covered in this article.
- Secondary amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation for 3 months in a female who previously had a regular menstrual cycle. Or 6 months in a female who previously had irregular cycles.
The most common cause of secondary amenorrhea in athletes and premenopausal women is what’s known as functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA).
Although reversible, the cause of this disorder is related to psychological stress, excessive exercise, disordered eating, or a combination of these factors resulting in the suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis (Shufelt, Torbati, & Dutra, 2017).
The hypothalamus is the regulatory centre in the brain that releases hormones, which control multiple systems, including the reproductive system. In FHA, the hypothalamus is ‘silenced’ from releasing hormones which ultimately allows for ovulation and a ‘normal’ menstrual cycle.
This means a decrease of luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, estrogen and progesterone (Allaway, Southmayd, & Souza, 2016) amongst others. These are all essential hormones in the reproductive system. Estrogen and progesterone, however, also play a significant role in other systems within your body as well.
FHA can affect females of all shapes and sizes. It occurs in approximately 3-5% of adult women. However, it has been reported in a comprehensive review of the literature that the incidence is higher in athletic women. With an estimated 50% of women who exercise regularly experiencing subtle menstrual disorders and approximately 30% of women have amenorrhea (Meczekalski et al., 2014).
It is commonly accepted that the lower someone’s body weight is, the higher the chance they will develop FHA. But this doesn’t mean it’s exclusive to women with lower body weights.
Weight loss, even when remaining within what society defines as ‘normal’ weight, can still trigger FHA (Rosen 2018)
NOTE: There are many other causes of amenorrhea. For it to be confirmed as FHA, you have to undergo blood tests and a comprehensive physical examination, including the history of your gynaecological health. So, if you are experiencing amenorrhea, but haven’t had a diagnosis, you should get to a health professional to have the cause of your symptoms clarified.
The Consequences of Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea to Your Health
The resulting loss of estrogen due to FHA has profound effects on many systems throughout the body both in the short and long term (Shufelt, Torbati, & Dutra, 2017).
Decreased bone mass density with an increased risk of fracture. Osteopenia and osteoporosis are long term complications.
Interestingly, it is estimated that for every year without a menstrual period you lose 2% of your bone density. This bone loss can be irreversible (Rosen 2018)
Abnormal changes in the lipid profile and endothelial dysfunction which leads to the development and progression of atherosclerosis (deposits of fat on the inner artery walls).
This suggests the benefit of regular exercise on vascular function is diminished (Meczekalski et al., 2014) (O’Donnell, Goodman, & Harvey, 2011).
FHA patients present with significantly higher rates of depression and anxiety. Estrogen is thought to increase serotonin which is the chemical in the brain that boosts mood (Meczekalski et al., 2014).
Sexual and Reproductive problems
Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea is related to the profound impairment of reproductive functions including anovulation and infertility.
Low or non-existent estrogen affects vaginal lubrication. If levels become too low, vaginal dryness can occur which leads to painful sex.
There may be an increase in urinary tract infections due to the thinning of the tissue in the urethra which is regulated by estrogen.
How to Support Your Body
Reversing FHA is possible. But needs to be taken in a long term approach. Addressing lifestyle factors is crucial in the road back to health. Things such as addressing significant stress factors on the body and mind, including extreme diet and exercise habits. These interventions to support your body can all be done in conjunction with medications if your health care professional advises.
Learning how to switch on your parasympathetic nervous response when under pressure can help with regulating cortisol (the stress hormone). It is known as the rest and digest system. There are many ways to do this, here are just two:
- Yoga – including postures, breathing and meditation, has been found useful to deal with lifestyle triggers such as stress.
- Mindfulness helps you deal with stress in everyday life as well as your reactions to pain and anxiety.
Overall consensus in the medical literature is, if the FHA had a contributing factor of excessive exercise, this must be reduced significantly to facilitate healing (Gordon et al., 2017). Low impact, low-intensity exercise for health is acceptable while healing your body.
Clinical practice guidelines (Gordon et al., 2017) stipulate the current treatment needs to include either an increase in caloric consumption and/or improvement in nutrition.
This is an area where Gut Performance™ can help improve not only nutritional absorption through the gut but give the body vital macronutrients to increase your overall nutritional profile.
Gut health is essential for overall health. Factors affecting our gut health are stress, poor diet, medications… Basically, modern day living.
If we have poor gut health, it impacts the hypothalamus and pituitary, leading to a suppression of hormones. These may already be ravaged by stress, over-exercise, and restrictive eating behaviours. Addressing the health state of the gut is crucial for balancing hormones.
Using Gut performance™ daily promotes health and optimal gut function by healing, normalising and fortifying the protective lining of your digestive tract. It improves the absorption of essential macronutrients to support the body, including the hypothalamus. It also contains prebiotics to help your naturally occurring microbiome to flourish.
How Long Will it Take?
As frustrating as it may be, amenorrhea can persist for a long as 6-12 months after making the changes to your lifestyle (Rosen 2018). The healing to your body will be slow, but the benefits will far outweigh the long-term frustrations.
Let us know via our Gut Performance™ Instagram page if you have tried Gut Performance™ with a combination of these tips to heal your body from Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. Others would love to hear about your success.
Bibliography & Works Cited
Allaway, H. C., Southmayd, E. A., & Souza, M. J. (2016). The physiology of functional hypothalamic amenorrhea associated with energy deficiency in exercising women and in women with anorexia nervosa. Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation, 25(2), 91-119. Viewed February 6 2019, https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26953710
Collins, T., & Rompoliski, K. (2017). Hypothalamic Amenorrhea: Causes, Complications and Controversies. Journal of Student Research, 24-32.
Gordon, C., Ackerman KE, Berga, S., Kaplan, J., Mastrorakos, G., Misra, M., . . . Warren, M. (2017, May). Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 1413-1439. Viewed 6 February 2019 http://endosuem.org.uy/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Amenorrea-hipotalamica.-Endocrine-Society-2017.pdf
Meczekalski, B., Katulski, K., Czyzyk, A., Podfigurna-Stopa, A., & Maciejewska-Jeske, M. (2014). Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and its influence on women’s’ health. Journal of Endocrinological Investigation, 37(11): 1049-1056.
O’Donnell, E., Goodman, J. M., & Harvey, P. J. (2011). Clinical review: Cardiovascular consequences of ovarian disruption: a focus on functional hypothalamic amenorrhea in physically active women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 96(12), 3638-3648. Viewed 6 February 2019 https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21956422
Rosen. (2018). Amenorrhea in the Female Athlete: 8 myths debunked. Viewed 6 February 2019 http://www.gaudianiclinic.com/gaudiani-clinic-blog/2018/10/10/amenorrhea-in-the-female-athlete-8-myths-debunked
Shufelt, C., Torbati, T., & Dutra, E. (2017). Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and the Long-Term Health Consequences. Seminars in Reproductive Medicine, 35(03), 256-262. Viewed 6 February 2019 https://thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-0037-1603581